After talking to some users, I realized that the expected behaviour of users keeps evolving, as Stack Overflow grows.

How has this behaviour changed, let's say in the last couple of years?

Edit: I've seen the types of questions that have generated huge numbers of upvotes, but if you ask them now, you get shot down! That's not easy for new users to understand.

Take this question for example: What is Node.js?

Can I ask, what is "Dart Language ?" and get away with it? Mostly by being on SO you find these questions, and I personally really benefit from them. But if you ask similar questions on much less significant topics too, it's not appreciated. I'm not complaining; I've been told it's the evolution of stackoverflow.

I thought it appropriate for a meta discussion. Am I wrong?

Behavior standing the test of time: Requirement to make effort to bring the attention of the users to the actual question, and away from, whether it should be asked or not, has not changed!

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    I'm tempted to closeflag this as primarily opinion based ;-) Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:42
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    That's rather difficult to answer. I wouldn't say that expected behaviour has really changed. Perhaps we have felt the need to be more explicit about the expected behaviour as the site grew, and given the consequences that might have had.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:43
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    I'm not sure we can predict how expected behavior is expected to change in the future. If we could, we'd probably just change our expectations now. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:43
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    An exhaustive list of all of the things that have changed would be huge; well beyond the scope of a single SO question. (In addition to being opinion based, as mentioned earlier.) Perhaps this could possibly be discussed if you picked a very specific behavior to look at the evolution of, assuming you choose one in which there can be objective measures of that behavior.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:44
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    I expect that everyone will stop asking off-topic questions starting next Thursday. Don't disappoint me, people!
    – Wooble
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:44
  • Who are you expecting to answer this? My expectations will differ from everyone else's... Do you want Jeff/Joel, someone who's been using the site 4 years or 1? Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:46
  • Well, its suppose to have answers from both, from their own experience. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:47
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    As to the question you linked, I would think the big banner saying, "This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here." would answer your question as to whether or not you should be asking a similar question, along with the fact that it's closed with reasoning as to why.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:52
  • @Servy I'm not seeking to ask similar questions, i'm just here, discussing how perhaps its indicative of change in expected behavior. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:53
  • @SangramSingh Yet you specifically asked, "Can i ask, what is "Dart Language ?" and get away with it?" despite the page on your link is very, very specific as to the answer to that exact question. Either you already knew the answer, or you didn't put any effort at all into trying to figure it out.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:54
  • @Servy 1. the 'I' is not me, its for anyone to ask that question. 2. I was asked to make the question specific, so i elaborated on my observations, i only wanted to know more such pointers, for me to behave as expected. Today! Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:57
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    @SangramSingh 1. And is the specific banner that I mentioned specific to you, or does it in fact apply to anyone wanting to ask that question? 2. And that's exactly what makes this question entirely improper, and also unanswerable.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


The issue with this question is that expectations are aggregate here.

People upvote questions that they feel 'fit' here, and downvote questions that they feel don't fit. The voting system exists for questions because, even working entirely within the FAQ, there's a lot of room for interpretation, and so everyone's interpretation is different.

That being the case, no one answer can possibly represent group opinion of what is expected, because the thing about this site is that there is no consensus opinion of where the baseline lies, and there never has been. If there were hard-and-fast rules, the site wouldn't be able to evolve. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of never knowing where the site is in its evolution.

Meta itself is a testament to that. People aren't sure what the current expectations are, let alone what expectations were a year ago or more, and how those expectations have changed. Meta allows you to get a feel for what the hivemind concludes about expectation within very specific scopes, and within a time frame (since generally the older a question is, the less reviews of it there are).

Think of it as the Q&A site equivalent of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle; the more you know about where expectations are, the less expectations can change. Everyone can have a different opinion on what the right expectations are, and no one in particular is right in their expectations.

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    Although, for the record, I'm right.
    – root
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 14:57
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    +1 because you're right
    – StephenTG
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 15:00

The FAQ and what is considered an acceptable question has evolved as the site evolved. Most questions these days are directed at specific issues, at least in the tags I frequent. You are expected to give examples of what you have tried, so users can help you achieve your goal. General questions about programming, like "What is MS Access used for?" are best left to Wikis.


Questions like "What is [something]" tend to be too broad.

too broad — There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

Specifically, good answers would be too long for this format. The highest-voted answer for the nodejs question you linked is a good illustration of "too long".

I would say that over time, expectations have evolved as the community has gained experience learning which questions work well in the StackExchange Q&A format and which ones do not.

  • Oh the irony of posting this answer to a question that is itself way too broad, and should be closed accordingly.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 15:27

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